Friday, September 17, 2010

The woman at the gym

There is a woman who works out at my gym. I see her there everyday though I try not to look. She is obviously anorexic and has been for some time. She eats just enough to keep from dying. She is probably in her late thirties though she looks closer to sixty. She is all bone and hair and teeth and knees. She wears a t-shirt three times too large for her body. She thinks she's fat. She wants to hide beneath her clothes. I want to hug her. I want to tell her that I'm sorry, that she could get better, that she deserves to. But I don't say anything. I just consider how, without recovery, she could have easily been me. She is on the elliptical machine every night, oblivious to everything and everyone around her, burning and burning more calories than she consumed all day. Just like that song by Jill Sobule:

Her little legs are working, she's going somewhere
She's climbing up the stairs
And when she reaches the top her dreams will be there

But they won't.

Maybe it's wrong for me to assume how she feels. Maybe it's wrong for me to cast my own experiences with anorexia onto hers. All I know is that I'm saying a special prayer for her tonight. She has never found the way out. There is a way out. She just never found it. Or if she did, she chose not to take it. She is so skinny she looks as though her legs will break. She keeps panting but she won't stop. There is nothing beautiful or tragic about it. She is nothing but bone. She is starving. She is sick. She is me if I don't get my life back on track.

I don't want to be her.

I'm sorry for her. I hurt for her. I wish and hope and dream for her.

But I don't want to be her.

I don't want her to be her.

I don't want anyone to be her.


  1. You are so right - you don't want to be her. Trust me, anorexia takes an even bigger toll on your body as you get older. I am 45, and although I'm a bit unusual (I developed anorexia around age 41), I've been told by my doctor the reason I got so sick so quickly this time around (starting in January; briefly restored some of the weight in PHP this spring, only to turn around and relapse again) is because of my age.

    This time around, refeeding and recovery is very hard, but it is very necessary. About a month ago I saw a woman who also scared me. She looked to be in her 60s or 70s, and was using a walker. She was at my psychiatrist's office (he only treats eating disorder patients.) At first I wanted to believe she was someone's grandmother, perhaps there paying a bill. But the next week she was there, walking slowly with her walker out of my doctor's office and it was clear she was a patient. He couldn't confirm that, but did say he had a patient who was 76 years old.

    That really scared me. I could see myself in 30 years, still trying to get over anorexia, everything gone, my life having been nothing but my eating disorder. I still think about her and wonder if she is recovering or just waiting to die.

    If you can, please speak to that woman. Give her NEDA website or some other source of help. Because she most likely can still recover and maybe knowing someone like you cares will be the catalyst she needs to get help. Maybe.

    You will get your life back on track. You don't have to be her. You have been recovered and it is not too late to free yourself. Please go see someone and talk about these things. Don't let it grab hold again. You are too valuable for that.



  2. Hi! I just found you're blog so I wanted to comment to tell you how inspirational I think you are. I'm SO GLAD that i found it. i think you're posts are so so true and i relate to almost every single one of them. Just wanted to say hi and thank you and KEEP WRITING! :)

  3. Aw/: i remember seeing this woman on america's next top model and she was obviously anorexic but she was in huge denial. It made me really really sad and made me realize that i never want to do that again. It's such an awful thing but recovery is so much better and makes life worth it again. Hopefully one day anorexia won't exist.

  4. Sigh.

    Seing anorexics is SOOOOO difficult for me.
    I know what you mean.
    Scared for them, scared for you, makes you hate it that much more.

    Scary thing is....think how many bulimics we might see everyday and have no clue. (Though sometimes I can tell at the grocery srtore if someone is on a binge).